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Do you have (or are you) a brass student in grades 4 through 12? Don’t miss BrassFest, a day-long festival at Saint Rose on Sunday, November 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Massry Center for the Arts.

Musicians from the internationally acclaimed Dallas Brass will join Saint Rose faculty members to help young players hone their skills and musicianship. It’s educational, it’s lots of fun, and it’s free.

BrassFest includes coaching sessions, ensemble playing, mock auditions, and master classes. In addition, Dallas Brass kicks off the day with an inspiring performance, and are joined by BrassFest participants at a rousing concert at the program’s end. Both performances are free and open to the public. Sign up at

Dr. Jay Stoltzfus, assistant professor of music education and brass coordinator at Saint Rose, has been in music education for more than 30 years. As the coordinator of BrassFest, he shared his thoughts on this exciting community event.

What is BrassFest?
Dallas Brass musicians, led by founder Michael Levine, spend the day working with students in elementary through high school. At the end of the festival, all participants take the stage with Dallas Brass to perform the music they’ve learned. Family, friends, and the whole community are welcome to listen to their awesome results.

It’s a truly fun day of learning, performing, and inspiration.

Who can participate?
Brass students in grades 4 through 12 are welcome. Players are placed in a comfortable group setting that matches their skill set, whether they’ve been playing only a few months or for many years. They learn and perform great arrangements of fun tunes that can be in a swing, Latin, or ballad style and are organized by level of development (beginning, intermediate, and advanced).

What happens at BrassFest?
All students work together in breakout sessions for ensemble skills. High school juniors and seniors can also perform in a master class coached by a member of Dallas Brass, and take a mock college audition with Saint Rose brass faculty.

In the closing performance, student ensembles perform the numbers they’ve learned that day. The concert concludes with a “mass brass” number that brings together all BrassFest participants.

What are the objectives of BrassFest?
We want to help brass players to learn to think like experts, work together on the performance and musical details valued by professional musicians, and have a blast doing it. Some examples:

  • Blending sounds within each section – for example, trumpet players matching their tone color with each other
  • Blending different sections together – trumpets working with horns and low brass to create new colors
  • Matching articulation
  • Creating and matching phrasing

What’s most important is that more ideas come from the students, not just from the adults. The arrangements we use for BrassFest allow brass players to listen more closely to each other and themselves: Having only 4 or 5 voices or parts, as opposed to a large ensemble that can have 10, 20, or more, helps students better focus on their individual playing and ensemble skills.

This environment helps participants better understand their role within any setting, so they can make meaningful contributions to their own school ensembles.

How is this different?
Students spend the day working closely with touring professionals and college-level brass faculty in a variety of settings. This approach allows them to take on a leadership role and more ownership of their performance. They address questions that encourage careful listening and focused, musical thinking, such as:

  • What did you hear?
  • What adjustments can we make?
  • Which voice should be prominent in this section?
  • Is our time locked in?
  • Are we agreeing on style?
  • How can we better communicate that character?


What do you hope to accomplish with this program?
In addition to helping students reinforce and refine individual and ensemble performance skills, we hope they will be inspired to seek opportunities to play in small groups – and perform for their communities. We also hope students will understand that it is possible to play, enjoy, and stay connected to their instruments long after they graduate from high school.

BrassFest gives students the rare opportunity to hear, meet, and work with a top-caliber, all-brass ensemble. It’s a fun, exciting way to learn new skills and techniques. Students are inspired and motivated by live performances by professionals at the top of their game.

And, at the end of the day, they get to show off what they’ve learned to friends and family – onstage with the professionals!

How do I sign up for BrassFest?

BrassFest timeline (all events: Massry Center for the Arts, 1009 Madison Avenue, Albany, New York)

9:30 to 9:55 a.m.: Student registration
10 to 10:25 a.m.: Opening performance by Dallas Brass, welcoming remarks, and plan for the day
10:30 to noon: Ensemble skills, session 1 in groups by grade/skill level; mock college auditions (high school juniors and seniors only)
12 to 12:30 p.m.: Lunch*
12:30 to 1:20 p.m.: Master class by instrument
1:30 to 2:30 p.m.: Ensemble skills, session 2
2:45 to 3:30 p.m.: Closing performance and closing remarks

Sign up:

*A bag lunch is available for purchase (preorder during registration, and pay by check on the day of the event). Musicians are also welcome to bring their own lunch.

This event is supported by John Keal Music and Conn-Selmer.